Reaching out to students attending colleges and universities is an important part of helping to keep young adults connected with their congregations and faith communities. It requires some active initiative from local congregation members. In the US and Canada, the school year is just starting. NOW is the time to make the connections and invite students to be a part of your church family.
To connect with young adults attending Graceland University contact Graceland Campus Ministries
Find more ideas and resources for College and Campus Ministries here
by Dan Nowiski, Campus Ministries & Missionary Coordinator, Michigan Mission Center
“Millions of young Christians get through college with a flourishing faith. One of the marks of these individuals is a meaningful connection to some form of Christian community—whether a worshiping congregation, a Christian campus group, or a Christian-oriented college—which makes them less likely to become nomadic or prodigal. The key here is a meaningful connection, not merely showing up at religious activities.”
David Kinnaman, You Lost Me (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2011), p. 141.
I was actively involved in my congregation throughout my childhood and high school years. My church family helped me develop my faith and provided support to me and my family in countless ways. As a teenager I was mentored into the role of congregational financial officer and accepted a calling to serve as a deacon.
Then I moved away from home to pursue a teaching degree. There was a Community of Christ congregation just blocks from the campus where I lived and studied, but I didn’t visit at all during my entire freshmen year. I don’t believe anyone there knew that I was in town and I never made an effort to be known.
For the first couple of months in the fall I traveled home every weekend to help out with my high school football team, so I stayed connected with my home congregation. After football ended I didn’t go back home all that often, and I started to sense a void not being part of a faith community.
I was ordained back home during the summer after my freshman year, so when I went back for my second year of college I felt compelled to finally visit that congregation near campus. It took me nearly two months that fall, but I finally got around to going and walked through the doors.
I’m not sure what I thought I might find, but what I discovered at that new congregation was a wonderful group of people who became an amazing support network and a few students who would become good friends throughout my time in college.
Making the choice to walk through those once unfamiliar doors nine years ago wasn’t an easy one, but it changed the course of my life. I’m now serving in a role where I am a support minister for the congregation and help them to make connections with students who are attending college in the area.
My personal experience taught me how important it is to take the first step towards forming a relationship with students. I could list many ideas for making a church building modern and inviting or write lists of ideas for planning meaningful and engaging worship experiences. Those are important topics, but what must come first in developing a campus ministry are the personal relationships.
I urge you to contact the local leaders in any congregations where you have a friend, family member, or young person from your congregation attending classes. Pass along their contact information and find a way to get them connected with someone near there campus. Take them with you to a worship service in the area one Sunday or plan a meal with them and invite a local leader to join you.
College students may not show up for Sunday morning worship experiences all that often, so forming meaningful connection will likely require lunch on campus, personal delivery of a care package, free food for a weeknight activity, a space in the tailgating lot, an invitation to use your washing machine, a home cooked meal, or maybe just a text or Facebook message of encouragement.
Students can and do emerge from college with a flourishing faith, so let’s continue to seek ways to establish meaningful personal connections. Extend the invitation because there are many waiting to find a home away from home.